The Tower

The turn of the century was a period of intensive rebuilding in many of Europe’s large cities, including St. Petersburg. New multi-storey apartment buildings rose, transforming ever larger areas of the city into a modern metropolis. And often, in each individual apartment building, one found a microcosm of the metropolis: changes in social order and family structures were realized materially in the architecture of the city’s new buildings.

In 1905 a six-storey apartment building was completed on the corner of Tavricheskaya (Tauride) and Tverskaya Streets. Shortly after, it became one of the most famous landmarks of literary and artistic modernism in St. Petersburg. Vyacheslav Ivanov, poet and major theoretician of Russian symbolism, lived in an apartment on its mansard floor between 1905 and 1912. For several years the Wednesday gatherings organized by him and his wife, writer Lydia Zinovieva-Annibal, functioned as a meeting place for Russia’s cultural elite, where the most contemporary and pressing questions in art and philosophy were debated and future literary classics recited.

Here we will see how the building, popularly referred to as the Tower (Bashnia), functioned as a stage for bohemian life in early twentieth century Petersburg. We will pay attention to the material dimension of life in the Tower, and see how the artists living there incorporated the everyday into their life practices. But we will also look at the Tower as dokhodnyi dom, a privately owned apartment house. During our visit, we will see how its interior spaces were organized, reflecting the social order of the time, and how they were interconnected, echoing the relationships between its inhabitants. We will see how the Tower exemplified both novelty and preservationist tendencies and thus came to house one of the tensions inscribed in modernity.